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Telco WiFi is back... Now here to stay or will 4G kill it? (Part 2)

by Juniper Employee ‎05-18-2012 01:44 AM - edited ‎05-18-2012 03:58 AM



                                                                                                                                                               Photo By °Florian


I finished my recent blog with a list of open questions for you. I'm back, ready to provide some answers or at least try to answer those questions posed.


Did you know that since April 7th 10% of the overall Internet traffic is generted by Mobile devices? With the Apps and adapted content for mobile devices the inflection point is huge. The Olypics might be another big inflection point with advanced live Olympics video streamint capabilities being announced by the BBC this week: pause, rewind, alerts and Twitter integraion migh make it viral.


First of all, let me say that in my opinion 4G will not kill WiFi in the same way that 3G didn't. The combination of 3G/4G with WiFi provides a much stronger value proposition. So, there will be a strong interest of getting subscribers using it. A better speed and latency will drive the preference.


As long as the service works, the vast majority of subscribers will not care too much if they are connected to a WiFi or a 3G network, but at the same time we can't expect them to switch manually to WiFi without any additional motivation. If the WiFi service in a certain place can offer substantial better quality experience over a 3G network, then the subscriber would switch; we've seen that in large venues like concerts or at sports events many people are actively sharing their experiences with their friends and family by posting pictures and videos via social networking sites. If the 3G network is not well dimensioned (not always possible) and there is a good WiFi service, people would switch to using WiFi instead. Another way of motivating subscribers would be providing a flexible data plan, extending it when using WiFi.


An interesting question is: how can mobile operators provide WiFi service 'everywhere'? The traditional answer is clear, by building its own network. But there are other ways to achieve this goal. One very common option is establishing roaming agreements with other WiFi hotspot providers. Another way started to be implemented is to incentivise fixed broadband users to open its home WiFi to roaming users offering free WiFi for them when away from home. Companies like Fon have been pioneers of this model (although it generated an agitated security debate as for the visitor’s sessions it uses the home private IP address and accesses Internet on behalf of the broadband subscriber for the visitors sessions). Technically this model can be implemented by setting up a second home SSID, controlled by the Telco. With this model, the operator can expand its WiFi covered area massively with a minimal investment. It facilitates as well to switch the Smartphones to WiFi at home where many users are very active with their mobile apps. The vast majority of users would not care too much that its Smartphone switches to the Telco provided home SSID however they will notice that have no access to the local resources: printer, media hub with pictures, music and videos, etc... so the telco SSID use-case would suit very well the needs of the visitors and neighbors but not the home family itself.


On the question about the availability of all mobile operator data service when using WiFi, the answer can change depend on usage. For those subscribers expecting just a fast Internet, WiFi would be fine. However, some advanced walled garden services provided by the mobile operators might be at risk: In-network content services (mobile TV, portals, etc.), enterprise mobile VPNs, Telco mobile payment and QoS. In order to provide a seamless service when using WiFi, the mobile operator must be able to redirect the traffic to its services complex, even when the subscriber is over a roaming partner's network. And here is where it requires a deep integration with the mobile data infrastructure.


Finally, on the question of the possibility of forcing the Smartphone to sign-in to a specific WiFi network, the answer is that technically is possible but not all phones implement this feature yet, so a resident client might be required. But would a mobile operator like to force its subscribers to switch by default to a WiFi network if they haven't solved the seamless service delivery?


So, I’ve answered all my previous blog opened questions, I think it is clear that WiFi is the way to go, but it might not be a good idea to have this completely implemented without having some of the issues fixed and all the use cases defined. This is why following a phased approached is highly recommended.


Steps to follow to implement a WiFi strategy for Mobile Operators

  1. Educate your subscribers on the advantages of using WiFi to complement mobile services: tariffs, enhanced service, and optimised battery life.
  2. Create your own high-quality WiFi hotspots in premium locations.
  3. Make the manual login easy and integrate it with a single bill wherever possible.
  4. Create your roaming network partnering with trusted and strategic WiFi providers.
  5. Extend your Telco WiFi services to homes by enabling a second SSID.
  6. Get your WiFi Integration ready with your mobile Data Infrastructure, OSS and BSS.
  7. Activate mechanisms to force Smartphones to switch to a controlled WiFi when available.
  8. Provide end to end security to your infrastructure, services and devices.


Good Luck! If there are any other tips you wish to share, please post them in the comments box below.

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